Megan Carter fights for position against Toledo Saturday. Carter matched her season high of 22 points in KSU’s seventh-straight victory. (Photo by Austin Mariasy from KSU Twitter feed.)
Three days after outscoring one of the best offenses in the Mid-American Conferences, the Kent State women beat one of the league’s best defenses.
The Flashes used outstanding defense of their own to win their third straight MAC game and first on the road over Toledo, 58-47, on Saturday. The victory was KSU’s seventh in a row and brings its record to 10-4. The Flashes are tied for first place with Central Michigan at 3-0.
Toledo is 9-5 and 1-2 in the MAC. The Rockets, which have now lost three straight games to Kent State in Toledo, have won 77 percent of their home games in coach Tricia Cullop’s 11 years there.
Kent State held Toledo 17 points below its scoring average and the Rockets’ shooting percentage 13 points below its average of 43.8. The Flashes lead the league in field-goal defense at 35.2 percent. Toledo is third at 38 percent.
On Wednesday, Kent State had beaten Northern Illinois, the No. 2 scoring team in the conference, 87-78, in Kent.
“I like the versatility,” coach Todd Starkey said. “This team was able to score and defend against Northern Illinois, then come back and win a completely different style game like this.”
You could tell the Toledo game was different very quickly. At the media timeout six minutes into the first quarter, the score was 6-6. The teams had made a combined four of 19 shots.
The Flashes went on to hold Toledo to 18 points in the first half.
“It was an unbelievable effort on defense,” assistant coach Mike McKee said in a postgame interview with David Wilson on Golden Flash iHeart Radio. “The girls were really, really locked in on the scouting report.”
The Flashes’ defensive plan was to keep Toledo from scoring in transition and to limit all-MAC forward Kaayla McIntyre, who had made 58 percent of her shots this season.
Toledo had one fast-break basket. McIntyre got off 10 shots and made only four.
“We changed our defenses frequently,” Starkey said. “So they didn’t really know if a double team was coming or not. We couldn’t be predictable. With McIntyre, if they know what’s coming, they run action to get her open. And she’s really good.”
Chief defenders on McIntyre were senior Merissa Barber-Smith, who had a career-best three steals, and freshman Lindsey Thall, who had a career-best four blocked shots. Thall leads the MAC in blocks.
Redshirt junior guard Megan Carter equaled her season high of 22 points to lead the Flashes.
“The last couple of games I haven’t been shooting the ball well,” Carter said on EPSN after the game. “During the break, I’ve been in the gym, just trying to refocus and get back to basics and better mechanics.”
It was the third straight game a different player had put up big points for the Flashes. Freshman Asiah Dingle had 29 against Eastern Michigan in Kent’s MAC opener. Junior Ali Poole had 28 against NIU.
“It makes it more difficult to prepare for us when we’re having different players step up every game,” Starkey said. “We’re starting to understand each other’s games and are able to play through different people based on how teams are playing us.”
After Toledo cut the Kent State lead to 34-32 at the end of the third quarter, the Flashes scored the first 13 points of the fourth quarter. Carter hit two three-point shots in that stretch.
Did Starkey tell them to do anything differently?
“They did what they were supposed to do,” he said. “When those things happen, it’s not like they come out of a timeout, and I sprinkle fairy dust on them. It’s a matter of just paying attention to certain things or making an adjustment or two. But in the end, we just start playing a little better.
The Rockets pulled within six points late, but KSU ended the game on a 7-2 run.
The Flashes have dominated the fourth quarter in all three league games, outscoring their opponents by a combined 71-49.
- The seven-game winning streak equals the longest in Starkey’s three years. The team also won seven on its way to the MAC East title in his first season.
- The last time KSU started the conference season 3-0 was 2010-11. The Flashes won their first five that year and eventually finished 11-5 and second in the East.
- Kent State made 19 of 54 field goals for 35.2 percent, about 3 points below its average, and six of 16 three-points baskets for 37.5 percent, about 3 points above its average. The Flashes made six of 10 shots and two of three three-pointers in the fourth quarter.
- KSU’s margin of victory came almost entirely from the foul line. The Flashes made 14 of 20; Toledo five of seven. Toledo point guard Mariella Santucci fouled out and starters McIntyre, Mikaela Boyd and Nakiah Black all finished with four fouls. No Kent player had more than three.
- Toledo made 10 of 25 layup attempts, an online statistics I hadn’t seen before. Kent made five of 18. KSU had eight assists, its lowest in six games. Senior guard Alexa Golden had half of them.
- The Flashes committed 14 turnovers, Toledo 18. Both teams scored 11 points off turnovers.
- Toledo outrebounded KSU 41-39. Golden had seven, Dingle six and Thall five.
- Sara Rokkanen led Toledo with 12 points on four three-point baskets. She also had eight rebounds. McIntyre had 11 points and five rebounds.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Kent State. The Flashes play at 13-1 Ohio University Wednesday. Ohio, 2-1 in the MAC, beat Ball State (6-9, 1-2 MAC), 90-75 in Muncie on Saturday.
Other MAC scores
- Central Michigan (12-3, 3-0) 89, Northern Illinois (9-6, 1-2) 66 at Northern.
- Akron (11-3, 2-1) 74, Bowling Green (7-7, 0-3) 71 at Akron.
- Buffalo (10-4, 2-1) 66, Miami (10-4, 1-2) 59 at Miami.
- Eastern Michigan (8-6, 1-2) 64, Western Michigan (7-7, 1-2) 61 at Eastern.